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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

James A. Garfield: Preacher president

President Garfield (Public Domain)
It is said that James Abram Garfield was the only preacher to ever become president of the United States (although he was far from being the only preaching president).

He was born on November 19, 1831 in an Ohio log cabin to parents who were members of the Church of Christ.  This religious affiliation influenced him greatly throughout his life.

In an article titled "President Garfield's Religious Heritage and What He Did With It," Howard E. Short explains that the Disciples of Christ evolved from two Presbyterian offshoots:  Thomas Campbell's group in Pennsylvania (which had grown weary of denominational splits), and Barton Warren Stone's group in Kentucky (which had sought to be free from local-Presbytery control).  These groups later joined with the then-"largest church in the Baptist Association" and simply began calling themselves "Christian Churches."  They became known by this slogan:  No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.

Garfield - who had at various times worked as "a janitor, bell ringer, and carpenter" during his younger years – was baptized in 1850.  Wikipedia reports that he later "developed a regular preaching circuit at neighboring churches, in some cases earning a gold dollar per service."

Howard Short offers this quote from F. M. Green's biography of Garfield:  No one who is thoroughly familiar with President Garfield's history can doubt that this Disciple habit and method had a most important influence on his mind, his whole life and character.   During his few months as president (before being assassinated in 1881), Garfield practiced what he preached by appointing "several African-Americans to prominent federal positions."    


Copyright August 21, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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